With new connectivity and safety features for 2016, the Chevrolet Tahoe SUV is a top-selling family vehicle that is anything but small.
Stretching 17 feet in length, the truck-based Tahoe provides 45.3 inches of front-seat legroom — enough to make a football player comfortable.
Every one of the three rows of seats sits high above the pavement and even the third row has more than 38 inches of headroom. Buyers select Tahoes with as many as nine seats or as few as six.
Best of all, the interior can be surprisingly free of road and wind noise.
The Tahoe comes with only one engine — a 355-horsepower V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It can tow up to 8,600 pounds of boat, trailer or camper, so it’s perfect for family vacations.
But the base price tag is sizable and higher than some competitors’.
Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including delivery charge, for a base, two-wheel drive, 2016 Tahoe LS is $48,195.
The lowest starting retail price, including destination charge, for a 2016 Tahoe with four-wheel drive is $51,195.
These prices compare with $45,395 for a base, two-wheel drive, 2017 Nissan Armada with 390-horsepower V-8 and $47,420 for a base, 2017 Ford Expedition with two-wheel drive and 365-horsepower, turbocharged V6.
Consumer Reports predicts that the 2016 Tahoe will be much less reliable than average. The Tahoe earned four out of five stars, overall, in federal government crash test ratings.
Still, the Tahoe remains the best-selling full-size SUV in the U.S., with sales 2.3 percent higher through August this year, at nearly 60,000 vehicles sold.
Most other SUVs have dropped their pickup truck underpinnings and now use smoother-riding car platforms.
But the Tahoe remains a body-on-frame SUV using the rugged Chevrolet Silverado truck platform underneath and the Silverado’s 5.3.-liter V-8 under the hood. So the Tahoe is capable of off-road duty, as long as the trails can accommodate an SUV that’s 6.7 feet wide.
On pavement, the Tahoe rides better than expected, even when it doesn’t have the upgraded magnetic ride control in the suspension. The test-driven Tahoe LT smoothed out road bumps and transmitted little, except vibrations, to passengers. There was, however, a constant sensation of heft in the 2.7-ton vehicle, and passengers noticed the mass of the Tahoe shifting to one side and the other in turns and curves.
Steering had a mostly mainstream feel, and power came on steadily, rather than abruptly, in this big SUV.
The automatic transmission tended to upshift quickly in city traffic, which helped to maximize fuel economy but didn’t always provide strident V-8 power, and the test-driven model averaged 18.3 miles per gallon in city/highway driving.
This was more than the federal government’s combined estimate of 18 mpg.
Note that the Tahoe’s V-8 automatically deactivates engine cylinders — going from eight to four cylinders and back — as it detects the power demands of the driver. Drivers typically only notice this happening because a light in the dashboard tells them how many cylinders are operating.
With a good-sized, 26-gallon fuel tank, the test-driven Tahoe had a decent travel range of 475 miles.
It took a step up onto the standard running boards to get inside the Tahoe, and the high floor made lifting luggage into the back cargo space a chore.
Bucket seats in the first two rows were wide and comfortable. The third-row bench, however, sat low to the floor and had a short cushion and legroom of just 24.8 inches.
Buttons and knobs on the dashboard were well laid out, and the new-for-2016 Apple CarPlay integration makes connecting to smartphones easier.
A rearview camera is standard, thank goodness, and an enhanced driver alert package now bundles forward collision alert and lane keep assist to help avoid crashes.
There has been one U.S. safety recall of the 2016 Tahoe, involving 4,789 vehicles. The federal government reported front control arms on the vehicles might have inadequate welds that could break and impair steering, thereby increasing the risk of a crash.